creationist ‘report’ writing: marked down again

By Alison Campbell 12/03/2011

Yesterday I received an e-mail from someone using the pseudonym ‘WinteryKnight, who said:

I was just wondering if you have any recent research publications on experimental biology? I am thinking about writing a blog post comparing you to Michael Behe, and I want to be as fair as possible when I compare your research publications on experimental biology in peer-reviewed journals. Please send me a list of the ones that involve lab experiments, like the Lenski experiments, in an e-mail so I can include and compare it with Behe’s research. I don’t want you to be “Marked Down” unless I find out what you can actually do in the lab.

This sounded a bit like Andrew Schlafly’s demand for Richard Lenski to hand over research data on the evolution of a novel trait in E.coli – although I hasten to add that I’m not in Lenski’s league! (I’m sure all this attention is doing wonders for my blog traffic, though!) In addition, WinteryKnight’s use of the words “Marked Down” made me think he could be another apologist for the Discovery Institute. In any case, I could guess which way this was heading, so I responded:

I don’t think so. I don’t respond favourably to ‘incognito’ requests like this, & I would also expect to be able to view previous posts by the writer to see their approach to the subject.

At which point, WK wrote:

That’s OK, I can use what you have on your web page. Thanks for your reply.

At the time I thought that my response would be quote-mined &/or misrepresented and lo! it has come to pass. (Gosh, I should give up my day job & set up shop as a psychic…) For WinteryKnight hath written… a considerable outpouring of spleen, based on inaccurate &/or sloppy research. I just know this is asking for another quote-mine, but if a student of mine turned out a bit of substandard work like this, their work would indeed be ‘marked down’.

WinteryKnight complains that I don’t appear to have any training in biology. This would be news to those who taught me, including my PhD supervisors at Massey University, and also those who have subsequently hired me to teach – wait for it! – biology. It also suggests a failure to check references, as a simple google search of my name & the phrase ‘PhD Massey’ (from my uni web page) turns up the details of my education. I am indeed a biologist by training (as well as a teacher.) He also complains that I’m not a researcher – before listing a reasonably large number of publications, the majority of which are peer-reviewed. You can’t have it both ways! In addition, he seems unaware that I have also published in the area of teaching evolution in NZ and that I regularly review new biology publications – despite his protestations, I think we can safely assume that I do know what I’m talking about. (By the way, a number of WK’s ‘intelligent design’ references are in the area of cosmology, not evolution. Sorry, WK, but you’d be ‘marked down’ for padding out your references list.)

He also fails in reading comprehension – WK has apparently failed to see my statement (in the comments thread of that original blog post)  that I do encourage discussion of ‘intelligent design’ in classes looking at the nature & philosophy of science. Which is where it belongs. No mechanism, no evidence, special pleading – Not Science.

I would also deduct marks for failing to deliver on what his original brief suggested: Please send me a list of the ones that involve lab experiments, like the Lenski experiments, in an e-mail so I can include and compare it with Behe’s research. Yet I looked in vain for this comparison in WK’s post. Why is that?

Finally, & true to the example of Casey Luskin, it seems that WinteryKnight censors posts to his comments thread. As I said earlier, this is hilariously ironic. So, in the interests of free speech, I attach below comments posted – but not published – at WK’s place and cc’d to me by Grant:

You have contradicted yourself in trying to make out she has no idea what ID is then pointing to references where she has written about ID/creationism. Sloppy, biased reporting. But then what else to expect from someone trying to shore up their beliefs?

Additionally, as she’s not research staff, not it’s meaningful to complain about a lack of ’research’ publications. It wouldn’t have been hard to find that out yourself with a few minutes on google and the university website. You obviously didn’t try.

Her interests are with the school-university interface, as her publications clearly indicate, and those are publications; you can’t pretend they’re not with word games!

’It’s not clear to me that she actually knows any biology at this point.’

Actually, it’s quite obvious she does. You clearly haven’t even tried. In fact, you must have avoided what she wrote in the article that you link to.

’and she refused to give them to me’

Not in the way you’re making out.

& Number8Dave:

What a strange post. Since when was it necessary to be a research biologist to understand evolutionary theory?

I didn’thave time to plough through all the references you copied and pasted, but the first one is an unremarkable piece on echinoderm biochemistry. No mention of Intelligent Design anywhere, though I see it’s partially funded by the Discovery Institute. Presumably the DI aim to quote from this and declare “How could anyone suggest something as complex as this could have arisen by chance?” They, and you, seem incapable of learning that complexity is not something that evolutionary theory has ever had a problem with.

Intelligent Design is not some bold new theory challenging the hidebound evolutionist orthodoxy. It dates back at least as far as William Paley’s Natural Theology in 1802. ID has really not moved beyond Paley in more than 200 years – its proponents still have no mechanism beyond “God did it”, while evolutionary theory has moved ahead in leaps and bounds. We now have a reasonable understanding of how diversity and complexity arise through evolution, although as in any active field there is much still to learn. People such as yourself who reflexively insist that life is too complicated to be natural, and therefore must be supernatural, do nothing but provide amusement and occasional irritation to the rest of us.

0 Responses to “creationist ‘report’ writing: marked down again”

  • “…I want to be as fair as possible…”

    that’s like prefacing a statement with, “no offense, but…”

    smartly sidestepped, even if WK totally reacted in a sadly predictable manner:)

  • While it seems that Grant & Number8Dave have now had their comments approved, Ted tells me he’s still waiting on his remarks on a second round of commenting by WK. Since it addresses some of the points I was going to make, I see no point in duplication. Here’s what Ted said:

    Did you even read her post? Where did she call you a creationist? Why bring the Big Bang into the conversation at this point.

    You questioned her training, she addressed it. You asked for links to her writings in order to perform a specific analysis and she pointed out where you failed to perform this analysis, even saying you had enough from her University site. So you were asking for information under false purposes. One lie.

    She also pointed out that many of your own supposed scientific papers supporting ID not only failed to mention the subject, but were not about biology at all, but cosmology.

    You failed to address ANYTHING she commented on. Then you wrap up your post with another an out-and-out lie. Her site requires the same three pieces of information to post on your site. Her site also holds comments for moderation, just like yours. Don’t try and claim that the syndicated site has a different policy than her University blog, because YOU posted the link to her own blog, not the syndication site. So don’t bother trying that lie. See, I just saved you from having to make another lie.

    So you not only do not read for comprehension — which she also accurately identified — but after being criticized you make up stuff. I thought lying was against the rules? So you’re an interesting sort of Christian, aren’t you?

  • seems like WK has been properly owned. will be interesting/maddening/entertaining to see if he has a comeback to that or if he’s going to exercise his censoring finger.

  • Well, I’ve been reliably informed that he’s since described me as a ‘fascist’ (first time I’ve ever been godwined) because – apparently – I don’t allow dissent in my classes. Now, how could he possibly have any idea of what goes on in my classroom? I feel another post coming on :)

  • Just amazing how people like him are always throwing around terms like “fascist”, without having any real concept of what the heck they’re talking about.

    Hehehe. That’s going to be a fun post to write.

  • Here is my comment to Wintery Knight followed by his reply. Rather dictatorial and notice how he fails to address my question about his qualifications. Also does he still think Einstein is alive?
    His blog is a one sided “conversation”. He only uses other posts to make additional, tangential comments.


    “She openly boasts that if a student were to use standard ID arguments such as the irreducible complexity of the bacterial flagellum, that student would be “marked down”:”

    According to this quote Dr Campbell will mark down students if they use “standard ID arguments”.
    It would seem reasonable to me for any educator to mark down a student who uses any argument that has been repeatedly criticized in the literature, much like a chemistry lecturer would mark down a student who described modern chemistry by referring to philostogen.
    The comment also implies that if a student used a non standard ID type argument (i.e. showed some initiative) they might not be marked down.
    As you have (incorrectly) implied that Dr Campbell does not have any research papers in the biological sciences and therefore should not comment on ID theory, perhaps you could state your own biology (or other) qualifications, so that readers can know that, by your own standards, you can comment on evolution/ID?
    Finally, Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist not an experimentalist. Would this exclude him from commenting on topics in experimental physics?


    The problem is that Campbell cannot even state the arguments she is marking down. She doesn’t link to them, and she cannot quote them. She called me a “creationist” but I’m not a creationist. In fact, in the post I cited, I used the Big Bang as an argument to disprove materialism and naturalism. But she nevertheless went ahead and labeled me as a creationist in her post. Does that strike you as someone who understands anything at all about her opponents?

    In your next comment, I want you to list the standard ID arguments, with quotations to primary ID literature – either published books or peer-reviewed publications. I asked commenters to interact with “Signature in the Cell” and “The Edge of Evolution”. But none of you will. Because you haven’t read them. And that’s the point. The point is that Darwinists will not look through the telescope because they will not allow their blind faith to be challenged by evidence. Instead you employ name-calling “creationist” and cite philosophers and judges. You haven’t shown that you even know what intelligent design is.

    Regarding Einstein, he is welcome to publish his calculations, but we must give them no credence until they are confirmed by experimental evidence, which they have been. However the theoretical speculations of string theorists and multiverse proponents and macro-evolutionists should be given no consideration, since they decline to show any observations that demonstrate what they are theorizing about.

    Please list the experimental science papers that Alison Campbell has published in peer-reviewed journals. Don’t change what I said. I said EXPERIMENTAL SCIENCE papers. I want to see hers. Where are they?

    If you don’t address my concerns directly, then your comment will not be approved. I don’t have time to go round and round with you on other topics. Let’s stick to the science.

    Note – when the following commenter does answer the questions WK posed of me, WK shifts the goal posts and poses a loaded question
    “In short, the topic is whether Darwinists should suppress experimental scientific evidence in order to prop up their materialistic (religious) speculations. That’s the topic.”

    He/She really isn’t worth the effort.

  • hehehe. Another reading comprehension fail on his/her part: in one of my early responses to George (on the post that set all this off) I commented quite specifically on content from Signature. Not favourably, I hasten to add!

    I might also point out that I never called WK a creationist – ‘apologist for the DI’, yes, but ‘creationist’, no. Methinks s/he doth protest too much :-)

  • I suspect it is a he, I’ve very rarely seen this level of arrogance in a woman.
    May the pseudonym is because he (?) is the author of one of the books he(?) keeps going on about. Maybe there are so few ID proponents to read the book he(?) now wants to trick ID opponents into buying it.
    Damn, I think I’ve been hanging around too many conspiracy theorist sites :-)

  • Less arrogant woman. Hmm. There are plenty out there. Just as many as men, I think. Only I suspect, we’re more arrogant in our manner and behavior, not in words or in speech. I think it most often results in passive aggressiveness in women (see: my mother), which is behavior I attribute less to men. I think women are just more subtle about being arrogant. Lol!

    That said, after reading closely through several of WK’s posts and comments, [particularly this one: – I have concluded that WK is a guy.]

    And yes, arguing with WK would be pretty useless. In, one post [] is all about how atheists have no morality. He first decides they don’t, then he goes through a sham of “proving” to himself that atheists don’t have any his minimal requirements a worldview must support for in order to ground rational morality. [And, then, rather obviously concludes Christianity does.] This methodology will come as a big surprise to all of us by now, I know. I’m left wondering whether WK feels the same way about the other religions, or is it just all atheists intrinsically morally compromised.

    Also, in his “Why I am a Christian” [] post, he again has clearly already decided that God did everything, and then goes on to basically post a ton of links to his own writing (which includes his conclusions on the science), which basically prove to him that the universe is obviously so scientifically engineered as to have been fine tuned by someone, and that fine tuning proves that there is a god, which proves to him exactly what he had already decided was true.

    Which is exactly the kind of circular reasoning ID people love to use.

    I’ve very rarely seen this level of arrogance on anyone, period.

    Sheesh. I need some chocolate.

    Also, can someone tell me the difference between the proponents of ID and creationists? It seems to me that no matter how much science they want to use to “prove” ID, it simply comes down to God did it, which is “creation”, right? Or is it because they’re trying to use science to promote ID that makes them proponents of ID and not “creationists”. But, if they’ve decided that God did it, and then went about trying to gather the science to prove it, then they’re not being very scientific, are they. So, they’re basically ARE glorified creationists after all.

    *sigh* The head spins.

    Her post on “Why I am a Christian” basically is a whole thing about ID – in which she concludes that

  • Number8Dave recently posted the following on my original post (on the uni website). Following his lead on the interests of free speech, I’ve copied here for those still following the ‘debate’.

    Wow. If any of you heard a booming noise a short while ago, it was probably Wintery Knight’s head exploding, from clear across the Pacific! Here’s the continuation of our exchange; normally I wouldn’t re-post private emails on the web, but Wintery Knight is such an ardent supporter of free speech I’m sure he won’t mind 😉

    First, he said:

    Stop talking about the Bible and God. Talk about science. And don’t talk about the presupposition or materialism or naturalism. That’s religion. Just talk about what can be observed, tested, repeated, falsified. Just science.

    I replied with:

    I didn’t mention the Bible or God. Read my post again. I asked you about your views on a couple of questions of history. Your refusal to answer is all the answer I need though. I see no point debating the minutiae of cellular chemistry with someone who believes our ancestors were persuaded to eat forbidden fruit by a talking snake, or that all land animals are descended from a boatload that landed on a mountain top in eastern Turkey. I’m happy to talk about the scientific evidence against these views for as long as you like.

    Your trouble, Mr Knight, is that you have a variety of religious views, which range from belief in Adam and Eve, through to there being bits of a cell which are irreducibly complex. None of them are supported by science. You are plainly incapable of rational discussion of your beliefs, and it would be a waste of my time to engage you.

    I also find it extremely ironic that you call Prof Campbell a fascist for allegedly suppressing free speech, yet you refuse to publish my post on your blog. You, sir, are a hypocrite and a poseur.

    He then came back with:

    Again with the talking snake and the ark. Feel free to leave a comment about science when you are ready to talk about science. Leave the Bible for church time.

    To which I replied:

    But you do believe in the talking snake and the ark, don’t you? Scratch an ID proponent and you’ll find a creationist. (Or a Raelian, I suppose…) Your inability to answer a couple of straight questions clearly marks you as such.

    In behaving the way you do, you illustrate Judge Brown’s finding in the Dover trial that ID is just a rebranding of creationism. You have no science to engage with, just a lot of empty, religiously-motivated verbiage. And you’re beginning to sound like a stuck record.

    He then said:

    The Big Bang is the greatest ally that theism has ever known. It disproves atheism. Your worldview has basically been reduced to flat-earthism because of the progress of science in discovering the Big Bang. The Big Bang is the greatest ally that theists such as myself have ever had. It means that your side is left affirming that the entire physical universe appeared out of nothing.

    Here is a peer-reviewed article in a science journal that explains it to you. It might be a little over your head, because it doesn’t mention Noah’s ark and the talking snake. But try. Stretch your little mind and embrace the progress of science.

    Link to article:

    Full text:

    Don’t write to me again. If you don’t understand that the Big Bang has disproved materialism, then there is no point in talking to you. You are a flat-earther. You are anti-science. I can pick up scientific articles like that one, and it reduces you to Ken Ham.

    Science has reduced you to praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and wishing and hoping that all of the discoveries that led to the Big Bang (cosmic microwave background radiation, redshift, helium/hydrogen abundances, second law of thermodynamics, radioactive element abundances). You disagree with all of those evidences, because you are anti-science.

    Basically, I think of you as though you were Kent Hovind. That’s what you are. You deny science in a vain effort to save your religion – materialism. You are a dinosaur. Only dinosaurs don’t believe in magic. So I guess you would be an insane dinosaur. Literally out of your mind – believing in fairies and leprechauns. You hate science. That’s your problem.

    Why don’t you just go back and live in a cave and rub sticks together to make fire? Or is fire too advanced for you?

    After that, what could I say but:

    Thanks for telling me what I think and believe, Wintery old boy. Ever considered getting professional help?

    I guess I really got under his skin. Don’t think I’ve ever had a creationist melt down on me to quite that extent.

  • Eviltwit – at the risk of provoking WK to a further spiel: there is no difference between ID & creationism, apart from the fact that the one called ID is wearing its lab coat back-to-front & claiming to do science.

  • Alison – crikey. You must be ready for a stiff gin and tonic. I wonder if your biologist colleagues in, er, less secular countries than ours get this kind of harassment on a regular basis.

  • Carol – it’ll have to be rum’n’coke; I can’t stand gin! (Actually, I think it’s Number8Dave who deserves the liquid refreshment & in his case I think it’ll be a vodka martini!) You’re probably right; it’s likely to be rather more uncomfortable for biologists in other countries. And that includes the US. I have a huge amount of sympathy for secondary school biology teachers in some parts of the States (where people like WK are much closer to home).

  • Awesome. Hysterical that WK seem to think that citing articles by an Evangelical Christian Psychology prof at Biola Uni [a uni which runs on the idea of Biblical Inerrancy] – we can safely assume anyone who’s teaching there is of the same opinion] is actually going to sway any actual scientist. Super rich that he says stuff like “leave the Bible for church time”. By default, its colors every single one of his arguments and he seems not to know it at all. “Only dinosaurs don’t believe in magic.” ROTFL. Talk about meltdown. By the end, you can almost picture him frothing at the mouth. Yowsers!

    p.s. thank you for the I.D.=creationism clarification:)

  • You said: “WinteryKnight complains that I don’t appear to have any training in biology. This would be news to those who taught me, including my PhD supervisors at Massey University, and also those who have subsequently hired me to teach – wait for it! – biology. It also suggests a failure to check references, as a simple google search of my name & the phrase ‘PhD Massey’ (from my uni web page) turns up the details of my education..”

    Gee… sounds an awful lot like the numerous charges leveled against Dr. Jerry Bergman who has a 8 earned degrees, but is constantly written up as either having none or worse…no matter how many times he whips out copies to prove he has the degrees he claims to have, his corrections seem to get ignored. I hope everyone reading takes note of your complaint. Not fun, is it… ;>)

    • This would be the same Jerry Bergman who – on the basis of a quick scirus search of his name – doesn’t appear to have any recent publications in mainstream peer-reviewed journals, butdoes have a significant output in various faith-based publications, including “Perspectives on Science & Christian Faith”? The comparison with him certainly smarts; as for WK’s original comments – as I said, they simply showed a lack of basic search skills &/or reading comprehension.

  • Eviltwit – I hadn’t picked the Biola Uni link – LOL!!

    Back to WK’s original post – he claimed that I (& others of my ilk) hadn’t read any work by ID proponents such as Stephen Meyer, thus demonstrating that he’d missed specific statements I’d made about “Signature in the Cell” in the comments thread.The selective reading capacity (& the censoring finger) appear to be still operating, going by the following post on my uni blog, in which RickK comments on exactly the same part of Meyer’s book:
    Just to keep WK honest, I posted the following on his blog: WK said: “Please don’t comment any more until you show me that you actually know what ID is, and what are the arguments for it. If you comments get rejected, that will be the reason why – because you refuse to engage with what ID theorists actually argue, and what they measure in the lab.” Stephen Meyer’s argument in “Signature” is: 1) DNA makes use of a “code”, an abstraction for communicating information between processes. 2) we’ve never witnessed a natural process forming a “code”; 3) we have seen intelligent agents (people) make codes; therefore 4) an Intelligent Designer is the best explanation. Signature takes something like 700 pages to say this, and no – I didn’t read all of it. I skipped the self serving autobiographical bits once I realized that nowhere in the book does Stephen Meyer address his complete lack of education in evolution or biology. Bit I’m more interested in the argument than the author’s lack of qualification.

    But we’ll get to that in a moment. Let’s look first at “The Wedge”. In “The Wedge” Meyer (and Douglas Axe) are named as members of a group dedicated to using scientific language to promote a Christian creationist agenda – to promote a version of science more compatible with a world created by God. Therefore, Meyer and Axe are motivated by religious and political ideology first, not by science. So in this context, I looked in “Signature” where Meyer is open and honest about his promotion of the Christian God as the “Designer”. Funny – I couldn’t find that anywhere. OK, so knowing that “Signature” is first and foremost a sophiticated propoganda piece, I read it carefully. In selecting “best explanation”, Meyer utterly fails to address the historical record of how often throughout human history the divine/supernatural has been put forward by VERY intelligent men and women as the “best explanation”, only to fall to later generations of natural philosophers and scientists.

    Meyer fails to demonstrate the difference between: 1) what we can’t explain yet; and 2) what we will never be able to explain. And like YOU, WK, Meyer fails to put forward a base case. He fails completely to indicate what “undesigned” life would look like and how it would differ from “designed” life. I’m no mathematician, but Meyer seems completely unable to impress other mathematicians with his math. And outside of the Fellows of the Discovery Institute, it is difficult to find biologists who are impressed with Meyer’s book as well.

    Finally, returning to the propoganda argument – Meyer writes a dense book heavy on science and directs it not to the scientific community but to the general public. Why? Why direct it to people largely unable evaluate the science? Well, the “Best Explanation” is that he did it so people like you can wield it as if it were definitive science.

    ————- He didn’t post it (surprise!). So I posted the following:

    So what was wrong with my description of Stephen Meyer’s argument in “Signature”? I compared it to a summary Meyer himself gave to a critic. Here is Meyer’s summary: “The central argument of my book is that intelligent design—the activity of a conscious and rational deliberative agent—best explains the origin of the information necessary to produce the first living cell. I argue this because of two things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which following Charles Darwin I take to be the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form). Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power. Hence, intelligent design provides the best—most causally adequate—explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life from simpler non-living chemicals.”

    Here is my summary: “1) DNA makes use of a “code”, an abstraction for communicating information between processes. 2) we’ve never witnessed a natural process forming a “code”; 3) we have seen intelligent agents (people) make codes; therefore 4) an Intelligent Designer is the best explanation.”

    Here is your statement, WK: “Please don’t comment any more until you show me that you actually know what ID is, and what are the arguments for it. If you comments get rejected, that will be the reason why – because you refuse to engage with what ID theorists actually argue.” So tell me, WK – who doesn’t understand the ID argument? Meyer? Me? or you?

    —————- Can’t take the heat, WK, stay out of the kitchen. If you want to talk about “Signature”, then we certainly can. But you can’t separate the arguments in “Signature” from the author’s agenda, dishonesty, lack of qualifications, and complete inability to gain acceptance from actual scientists.

    As for Behe – LOL!

  • Seems Mr Knight (suddenly realised it’s possible is surname is Winter, what a terrible thought) isn’t very interested in hearing from this research biologist 😉

    Left a comment pointing out that Dembski and Meyers are not biologists, and that, even though they always talk about “information” but they never define the term (there are technical definitions, but that sort of information is really easy to evolve). And it seems it got deleted, he’s commented on other posts since but mine doesn’t appear as “in moderation” let alone on the website. I didn’t even think to make a copy of it, because it wasn’t the least bit rude of confrontational.

    He really is a odd fruit.

  • “1) what we can’t explain yet; and 2) what we will never be able to explain.”

    i.e. the crux of it all.

    “He fails completely to indicate what “undesigned” life would look like and how it would differ from “designed” life. ”

    Solid point. Has anyone?

  • <i.“He fails completely to indicate what “undesigned” life would look like and how it would differ from “designed” life. ”

    Solid point. Has anyone?

    For starters, may I suggest that if my body had been properly designed, it would be a lot less uncomfortable for a doctor to check on the state of my prostate.

  • Heheheh. I suggest, I might have been designed taller than 4ft 9,1/2 so I could have a remote chance of seeing over the steering wheel of a car without having to use a pillow.

  • Alison, WinteryKnight is much beloved by local religious apologists – so look out for them repeating his attacks. Also keep you eye open for Intelligent Design Film and DVD . They look like they intend to flood the country with Discovery Institute propaganda films.

  • Thanks for the heads-up, Ken. Must check that web link as well – should write another post for the bio teachers.

  • Just wanted to clarify that it wasn’t a case of delayed moderation as WK makes out, but that my comment was ‘put aside’ and further comments from me blocked. (I sent in a couple asking after why my comment was not being posted with no “under moderation” acknowledge, just disappearing.) WK only released my comment after you quoted them on your blog.

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